Here's how to wash your face the *right* way

Straight talk: Clean Skin = Healthy Skin. Here's your derm-approved guide to going from grimy to glowy.

According to CeraVe’s Global Skin Cleansing Survey, 40% of people don’t know which cleanser is best for their face—and 55% of people over- or under-wash their face. That means that more than half of us don’t actually know how to properly wipe away the day. Yikes.

“Cleansing is critical,” says dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry. Not only does washing the right way remove dirt and debris, “it helps keep skin balanced [and its barrier healthy] so you won’t lose water, essential molecules and enzymes that allow the skin to function at its best,” says Dr. Henry. See? Super important.



At minimum, wash your face every night. “During the day, your skin gets covered in grime, sweat and pollutants,” says dermatologist Dr. Luigi L. Polla. And while you’re not exposed to nearly as much overnight, it can be helpful to wash again in the morning to rinse away any sweat and product from the night before. (Skin feeling super dry or sensitive? Skip the a.m. cleanse.)

But cleansing more than twice a day can damage your skin barrier (yes, even if you have oily, acne-prone skin). The exception to the rule: “You definitely want to wash after excessive sweating, like after working out, regardless of the time of day,” says Dr. Polla.

Your technique doesn’t have to be too involved. “Start with clean hands. Then, splash your face with warm [not hot] water and massage a few pumps of product into your skin. Finally, rinse it all away before patting your skin dry,” suggests dermatologist Dr. Brooke Jeffy.

Tempted to grab any towel off the rack? Hard no. “Use separate towels for your face and hair,” says Dr. Jeffy, who suggests stocking washcloths made of gentle microfiber or cotton. “And launder them every few days to keep them free from bacteria.” If you want the next steps of your routine to have the biggest impact, leave your skin a little damp to help the ingredients in your serum and moisturizer sink in better, says Dr. Henry.

Oh, and those turbo-charged cleansing brushes you see all over your feed? Derms recommend steering clear. “They can be really harsh and cause inflammation, which leads to more breakouts and irritation,” explains Dr. Jeffy. Also way too tough on skin? Wipes. Over time, the constant rubbing and chemicals in these sheets can mess with your skin barrier. The bottom line? Stick to cleansing with your hands and the right products.

Fancy foundation or really fierce eyeliner? Double cleansing gets it gone. Start by massaging an oil cleanser or a cleansing balm into dry skin to melt away the makeup (we like NYX Professional Makeup Stripped Off Cleansing Oil, $14, If you’re a waterproof mascara kind of girl, you may also need to use an eye makeup remover like Glossier Milky Oil Waterproof Makeup Remover ($12,

Once everything is dissolved, just rinse it all off and wash your face with a gel cleanser like Honest Beauty Gentle Gel Cleanser ($13, to make sure all your product (plus excess oil and debris) is fully off your face. When you’re done, your skin should feel refreshed, but not squeaky clean—aka stripped. Explains Dr. Henry, “We have natural oils on our face that help maintain our skin barrier.”



“A creamy cleanser with hydrating ingredients won’t disrupt your moisture barrier,” recommends Dr. Jeffy. Once a week (at most), give your skin some mild exfoliation by adding a cleanser with fruit enzymes into your evening routine.
TRY: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $12, & Kinship Naked Papaya Gentle Enzyme Face Cleanser, $22,

“Foam and gel cleansers with zinc help balance oil,” says Dr. Jeffy. Your skin can handle stronger exfoliants like glycolic or salicylic acid so use a more basic cleanser in the a.m., then an exfoliating cleanser a couple times a week at night.
TRY: LaRoche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser for Oily Skin, $14, & The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Acne + Pore Cleanser, $10,

A basic gel or foaming cleanser is great for daytime. At night, use a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid to help prevent breakouts, Dr. Henry advises. Limit treatment products to once a day and be sure to give your skin a break if it starts to feel irritated.
TRY: Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser, $7, & PanOxyl Antimicrobial Acne Creamy Wash, $10,

Unnecessary chemicals and fragrances can cause redness, flaking, discomfort and, in some instances, even allergic rashes. So choose “gentle, pH-balanced products with ceramides to help nourish and strengthen skin,” says Dr. Henry. And you’ll want to skip exfoliants to avoid irritation.
TRY: Farmacy Clean Bee Ultra Gentle Facial Cleanser, $28,

Hey, girl! Just wanted to let you know that this story originally ran in our August/September 2021 issue. Want more? Read the print mag for free *today* when you click HERE.


by Erin Reimel | 9/9/2021